‘What time is it?’ That’s the first thing that crosses my mind when I awake from an unintentional early slumber. It’s still dark outside which doesn’t bode well for my 12-8 am sleeping pattern.
I reach for my phone to check and disappointingly realize its 4am. My body clock clearly likes to have a laugh at the expense of my next day productivity.
Since I am a product of this technologically wired generation, I decide to check my social media accounts to see what’s been happening. I open up Facebook and the first few posts unequivocally make my heart drop.
There have been multiple attacks on Paris.
120 people have been killed.
Many countless others injured.
Largest death toll on French soil since the end of WWII.
France is in lockdown.
First thing that races through my mind while I desperately scroll through links and news sites is, ‘don’t be Muslim’.
So far no one has claimed the attacks. But I spot that one of the articles has mentioned that one of the attackers in the Bataclan concert hall had reportedly shouted that ‘”It’s Hollande’s fault, he shouldn’t have intervened in Syria!”
Nothing official so far, but for many this will be a smoking gun on the identity of the perpetrators. There is no mention of Islam or Muslims in this quote. Just mention of a geopolitical reality. My heart sinks nevertheless knowing where the conversation will turn. Knowing the coverage and subsequent verbal attacks that are sure to follow.
But wait, this time it won’t just be verbal.
In recent weeks there has been a steady increase in coverage of islomophobic attacks. I personally know of people who have witnessed or have been victims of these crimes. Racial slurs, violent confrontations, verbal abuse; the full spectrum of hate crime has been on show. Just yesterday, a visibly Muslim woman was pushed in front of a train in Piccadily circus. Thankfully she survived, but the threat was no less daunting.
My mind turns to my mum. I worry about her every time I see a post about an attack or abuse. My heart aches at the though of anything happening to her. Of anyone harming her or looking at her as someone other than who she is. A loving, caring, selfless and humble human being whose life has, and continues to, revolve around her family. Who shares nothing with this fanaticized image of an ‘infidel-hating-jihadi-death-to-america-and-all-other-western-nations-Muslim’ that has been conjured into existence.
I realize that this cycle of violence has numbed me. It was just a mere 2 days ago that Beirut was rocked by a bombing that killed over 40 people.
I realize that I spend my life worrying whether people I know here and in the Middle East & Asia have been affected by violence. I know people who have lost relatives in Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan. Iraq, Pakistan etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on.
I also live in London so it sometimes crosses my mind if I will ever be caught up in an attack. After all, one of the bombs in the 2005 attacks went off between Kings Cross & Russell square. A commute between stations I used daily for 5 years on my route to university.
I realize that I, and many like me, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. More Muslims are killed and affected by terrorist’s attacks than any other group of people. And I can assure you that there were Muslims unwittingly caught up in this Paris attack as there have been in many other attacks on western soil.
Yet I am in the unenviable position of being part of a group which is labeled both victim and perpetrator.
I recall a conversation I had with some friends the other day. They had gone out to a quaint pub in London for some drinks. While there, they got into an exchange with a man, who noticing their foreign appearance and their countries of origin, was quick to label them as Muslim. They weren’t. But they didn’t bother pointing that out to him. Instead one of them exclaimed, replying to the man’s posturing that they shouldn’t be drinking, wouldn’t you prefer Muslims who drink? His reply. ‘I prefer my Muslims dead’.
I wondered what that man must think when he reads about these Paris attacks. He’ll probably feel justified. Probably righteous in his cold-hearted analysis.
I wonder how many others harbor these views under the surface. And how many more will after this attack.